The next wave of HR transformation isn't a wave, but rather, a slow roll towards the inevitable embrace of technology and new relationships
There are pundits and thought leaders who are eagerly considering the next iteration of Human Resources without looking to the past and studying the slow and often tedious pace of change in the profession.
For the past forty years, global HR has assumed three primary roles: compliance director, corporate police officer, and the maternal role model for workers who are treated like children.
Even when hiring the best and brightest workers across the globe, HR plays a tertiary role in a complex process that involves multiple stakeholders from across the enterprise. When finally asked to participate, HR contributes in ways that are tactical—such as the management of paperwork or the scheduling of interviews—instead of strategic and forward-thinking.
The good news is that digital technology and social media have ushered in a new wave of thinking into the global economy. HR is now required to command people-related processes for a workforce that is younger and agiler. Employees demand transparency and accountability from their leaders, the next generation of workers will change the global economy.
So, it’s clear that workers have changed. Executive expectations have shifted. Will HR change with the times?
The answer depends on the appetite for risk.
All around the world, from California to Kolkata, the average human resources professional is working in a hierarchical structure that rewards cautious behavior and punishes failure. Any local HR worker will tell you that it's better to be slow and thorough than quick and wrong.
While important to mitigate risks in HR, it's also crucial to create a culture where failure isn't punished in a punitive or malicious manner. Mistakes are the lynchpins of success. Whatever the next wave of HR transformation looks like, it will be built on the foundation of failure.
One could also argue that the structure of human resources itself, with multiple levels of bureaucracy, is built to fail. When we strip away an individual HR professional's right to self-determination, we strip out pride from job tasks and accomplishments.
Human resources transformation comes from examining individual roles within an organization and asking questions about reach, relevance and resonance. How many people are positively impacted by HR? Is it relevant to the health of the organization? DoesHR have a positive influence on the health and wellness of the company?
Finally, the next wave of human resources will be built in collaboration with executives and line leaders who want to do more of the function themselves. Why must HR conduct audits and oversee the performance management process? Why can't a manager or supervisor have more insight into the company's overall total rewards strategy?
With wisdom comes power. HR must share some of its basic knowledge with leaders so that individual supervisors can work on the tactical aspects of human resources, which include everything from the onboarding of new employees to the management of conflict. If HR collaborates throughout the enterprise, it allows the best and most talented HR leaders to pivot from planners to strategists.
The next wave of HR transformation isn't a wave, but rather, a slow roll towards the inevitable embrace of technology and new relationships. I firmly believe that HR can evolve to a department of advisors and coaches and achieve a prestigious status within an organization. It just takes fortitude, persistence, and patience to endure a few mistakes along the way.
Meet Laurie Ruettimann at TechHR 2016